Gender and Women’s Studies Program hosts Equal Pay Day talk

Jack Birle, Staff Writer

In celebration of Equal Pay Day, the University’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program hosted a talk about wage disparities for women with program director Melissa Hodges.

The event was held on April 7 through Zoom with the title “Beyond the Average: How Parenthood, Women’s Employment, and Occupational Segregation Shape the Gender Pay Gap.” It was originally scheduled to be held on March 31.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996 in order to promote disparities between male and female earnings in the United States. Equal Pay Day this year occurred on March 24, and a date for the 2022 Equal Pay Day has not been selected.

Hodges began the event by discussing the general disparity between men and women when it comes to wage and education. She attested that wage remained separated when compared by sex and that the average disparity is either larger or smaller depending on race.

“In relation to the effect of education on wages, we do see kind of a reversal in terms of the education gap between men and women, women now in our current moment typically have higher educational attainment relative to their male counterparts,” Hodges said. “So much of the gender pay gap cannot really be attributed to differences in educational attainment, instead it is less about individual characteristics and more about structural issues in the labor market as well as in households.”

Hodges continued by discussing the effects and providing evidence for what she believes has led to the gap between male and female wages to this day. She also provided insights on the progress that has been made in various industries in the labor markets.

“Gender segregation has varied across individuals across different levels of educational attainment,” Hodges said. “In general what we see is a dramatic decline amongst those with a college degree or higher, so gender segregation has kind of been reduced in occupations requiring higher education, but less so in less credentialed occupations.”

Hodges closed the talk by discussing the Biden administration’s plans to assist working women with tax credits and funding for childcare options at workplaces. She also discussed her belief of the necessity for more worker related assistance for working mothers.

“If we don’t address the key systemic issues that continue to shape both men and women’s employment but also make it difficult to combine work and family, we will have little movement in addressing the persistence in the current gender pay gap,” Hodges said.

Following her talk, Hodges opened the Zoom call for a question and answer session on the gender pay gap.

Disparities between male and female wages in the United States are a controversial issue, with some data suggesting wage equality has nearly been achieved while other data suggests there is still a significant gap.

Critics of Equal Pay Day claim the data which suggests women make around 20 cents less per dollar when compared to a man is a flawed statistic because it does not account for the disparities in career choice and other factors. They suggest that when these factors are accounted the disparity is nearly nonexistent.

Hodges specifically pushed back on the idea that the statistic of women making 80 cents on the man’s dollar is the full picture on wage disparities between the two genders, and she offered more statistics to prove her argument. 

The Gender and Women’s studies program has more events on the gender pay gap and other issues scheduled for the future.